First Round of Exams

I’ve been meaning to post on the first round of exams which I took last week.  I spent a good chunk of time reviewing for my biology exam last weekend.  For the most part, I felt like I had a fairly good handle on the material, with a couple of exceptions – I didn’t get a chance to review the structure of mitochondrion and I still have some questions about the cytoskeleton.  At any rate, I felt pretty comfortable taking the exam – I used to get really nervous before taking tests, but most of that kind of anxiety got stamped out of me while I was an undergraduate.

The chemistry exam was a different story altogether.  I don’t like complaining about professors, so I won’t – suffice to say, it was very difficult to know what was going to be on the exam.  Her lecture slides, which she reads to us, are provided to her by the textbook authors, so in principle, the entire textbook is fair game as far as exam material goes.  Homework covers completely different topics than lecture – probably because she doesn’t make the homework assignments either.  I showed up for the exam without much of a clue as to what was going to be on it and was pretty happy when it wound up being an exam suitable for a high school student.  It shocked me when I realized that none of the questions on her exam required any sort of calculation whatsoever.  There were a couple of snags on the exam, though, because a number of the answers made no sense grammatically or scientifically.  Probably ten of the 40 questions had more than one answer which could have been correct, but only if you corrected her grammar and spelling.

As an example, consider the words “intramolecular” and “intermolecular” forces.  She consistently used the term “intremolecular force”.  One of two possible errors has been made, which drastically change the meaning of the answer – either she intended to type “intra-” and was referring to covalent bonding or she meant “inter-” referring to things like van der Waal’s interactions, hydrogen bonding, and so forth.  This distinction was compounded by the fact that several of the questions were attempting to determine if the student could discern between forces holding a molecule together (intramolecular forces) and the forces acting between molecules (intermolecular forces).  In spite of things like this, I probably did alright on the exam, unless there were questions where I failed to understand the questions

Regardless of the comedy that is my chemistry course, I’m really enjoying this semester, in particular biology.  It is absolutely mind-blowing to actually be learning how the human organism works at the cellular level.  The course covers things a bit too high-level for me and I think I would benefit from a more rigorous course set at a faster pace or with a higher volume.  Happily, my professor recognizes this, so he usually spends a few minutes after class explaining some of the material at a more fundamental level with more detail.  He’s also directed me to a couple of online sources for more information.  Can’t say enough good things about him and I really appreciate his willingness to answer my questions and help me gain a better understanding of biology.


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